Focus on Form in Second Language Acquisition

Krashen, S. (1979), 'The Monitor Model for second language acquisition,' in R. Gingras (ed.) , CAL

Theories of Second language Acquisition

When this book arrived in my hand for review I was pretty excited. Second Language Acquisition (SLA) was something I had to study a while back. The author, Lourdes Ortega, was one of those names that kept recurring over the duration of my own research and when I opened the book I was pleasantly surprised to see some very familiar references. I felt at home immediately. Be warned, however, this book is not for light reading. It is quite an academic book and, maybe it’s just me, it requires the retracing of your steps to ensure that you have got the intended message on a few occasions.

Bilingual education and second language acquisitiontheory. In .

According to Swain, output and its functions which facilitate language learning--the noticing of a gap in one's knowledge, hypothesis formation, testing and evaluation, and reflection upon language--can be profitably seen as existing within dialogue. Some of Swain's comments at the seminar reveal very clearly her movement to a position that dialogue is a cognitive activity in which language learning may be located:

Gregg (1984, p.94): 'each of Krashen's hypotheses is marked by serious flaws: undefinable or ill-defined terms, unmotivated constructs, lack of empirical content and thus of falsifiability, lack of explanatory power'


5: Second Language Acquisition Research.

The purpose of this general overview article is to outline how research into second language acquisition (SLA) over the last few decades has fed into our understanding of learning and teaching in foreign language classrooms. After a very brief overview of SLA research findings concerning both route and rate of L2 development, theoretical models attempting to explain these findings are presented, ranging from purely linguistic to cognitive models and social/interactionist models. The relationship between SLA research and second language pedagogy is then explored. Finally, recent developments investigating specifically the relationship between instruction and L2 development are outlined.

Cognitive Science and Second Language Acquisition Series.

Some really positive aspects of the book are the chapter summaries, various types of indices but, in particular, the annotated suggestions for further reading which end each chapter of the book. This allows the knowledge hungry student to focus their reading really well. The extensive referencing which was initially a positive did, however, become a negative at times and made the book read more like a doctoral dissertation. This tended to break up the meaning and caused me to retrace my steps on a couple of occasions. I also stumbled over the author’s definition of ‘markedness’ …again the fledgling student would probably need some specific examples to ensure that they have understood! A question also hung over the notion that EFL learners do not need to achieve pragmatic outcomes but, as my colleague Deborah pointed out, this is not always the case as exam students are frequently required to carry out tasks which are intended to be pragmatic. These issues are fairly isolated though and the book delivers a wide-ranging perspective on SLA research and theory, literally on the shoulders of giants.

Cognitive Science and Second Language Acquisition Series.

In a study published in 1995, Swain and Lapkin set out to assess the effects of output upon the "inner speech"of learners. Eighth grade immersion students were asked to assume the role of journalists, and to write a short article on an environmental problem, thinking aloud as they did so, thus allowing the researchers to see the impact of output upon the learners' thought processes. The researchers found that each of the students noticed, and responded to, a language problem in their output an average of just over ten times. In addition, they found that students analyzed their knowledge of the language in order to solve their problems. In one example from the study, a student who had written about how phosphates released into lakes cause plants to grow to such a great size that they kill the fish, struggled with how to say "kill the fish." She thought aloud as follows:

Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 27, (2):235-268.

In general, Ortega provides a series of 10 very logical chapters where the reader is guided through the quagmire of what SLA theory and research is. Her arguments seem consistently well balanced throughout and provide the reader with food for thought and reflection. Some interesting points highlighted are Ortega’s examples from second language users. She has clearly made an attempt to account for SLA broadly and not just from the non-native speakers’ of English perspective. The examples and case studies are predominantly from the 1990’s-which is relatively recent in terms of SLA research! The new perspective of not gauging SLA on monolingual language development, as was the norm, was very interesting. The old continuum of accuracy and fluency is rightly stretched into a triangle in order to accommodate the relative newcomer ‘complexity’ in this chapter also, although, in my opinion, it could have been given a little more space.